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Behavioral responses to drought stress in a lizard

Behavioral fight responses to desiccation risk are important to predict the vulnerability of terrestrial animals to climate change and yet, they have received little attention so far. In terrestrial ectotherms, behavioral regulation of the water balance (i.e. hydroregulation) is likely to be plastic and may trade-off with thermoregulation behavior. When low water availability and heat stress cause physiological dehydration, we expect to highlight a shift to behavioral water‐conservation strategies including changes in activity patterns, micro‐habitat selection and thermoregulation strategies.

In a newly published study at Oikos, David Rozen-Rechels, former PhD student at the center, compared the behavior of adult common lizards in control or water-restricted conditions. Water‐restricted lizards reduced their behavioral activity, elected more often cooler and wetter refuges during daytime, and performed less accurate thermoregulation than control lizards. Altogether, these results confirm that chronic water restriction and dehydration induce responses towards water conservation that conflict with thermoregulation accuracy.